Nine to field a team, ten to make a minyan

17 Jul

Monday morning my cell phone rang. I heard my youngest son’s voice.  “Abba,” he asked, “can we go to a baseball game this afternoon?”

The Schwartzes are big baseball fans…my sons have all played on national teams, travelled to Europe to represent the State of Israel in a number of tournaments, and they are all still big KC Royals fans….now that’s loyalty! 

Akiva was asking if we could go out to an Israel Baseball League (IBL) game – there are three games scheduled every night here on three different fields, for a total of seven weeks or so.  It is very exciting! Real baseball here in Israel (check out the website where you can even watch recorded televised games – )

“Good idea. Let’s go the game at Kibbutz Gezer,” I suggested.

And so we went.  The players are an eclectic group who tried out for the league…they come mainly from the U.S., but there are also players from the Dominican Republic and other countries…of course some 20 or so Israeli players are also spread out over the six team rosters.

The field at Gezer overlooks beautiful fields and hills.  It is a magnificent backdrop to the playing field. And as one gazes at the scenery, there is an inexplicable feeling of calm and satisfaction.

Gezer Field

The calm comes from the natural beauty.

The satisfaction, from the overwhelming thought: “We did it, we are here, we have really come home.”

Let me explain this in another way.

You see, the games here last 7 innings.  At each game, somewhere around the 6th inning, an announcement comes over the PA system.  “A minyan for mincha will begin shortly behind the first base bleachers.” And then, between innings, the fans appear one by one and join together in the afternoon service.  The game action continues in front of us.  You see, in order to face Jerusalem, you have to face the playing field…I have to admit, that as a Beit Shemesh batter smacked a home run during the silent amidah this week it was a bit difficult to have complete kavannah, and yet, no one missed a shuckle

Now, it takes ten to make a minyan. Why is that?

The requirement comes from the sin of the spies, a dark moment in the history of our people.  In fact, this week in Parashat Devarim, Moses reminds us of that unforgivable moment, first recorded in Numbers 14,  in which the ten spies brought back a damaging report about the land of Israel.  In fact, the day they came back from their mission to check out the land and spoke out so negatively about the land is said to have actually been the 9th of Av, and that is was that calamity that first established the 9th of Av as a bad news day for the Jews throughout our history.

That group of 10 who presented the evil report were referred to as an eidah or congregation, and according to the Babylonian Talmud (Tractate Megillah 23b) that incident serves as the basis for needing 10 to make up a congregation for prayer.  It is interesting that the Jerusalem Talmud (Tractate Megillah 4,4) relates the number 10 to the 10 brothers of Joseph who went down to Egypt to get food during a famine in the land of Canaan (Israel of old). 

Either way, we are talking about establishing the number 10 to sanctify God’s name publicly based upon an abandonment of life in the holyland!

And that’s what’s so amazing about davening mincha at an IBL game -it’s like a dramatic tikkun or corrective action for the sins of our ancestors. 

Let me explain.

Basically the people making up these minyanim at the ball games are American immigrants to Israel, people who have all generally made great sacrifices (excuse the pun, baseball fans) to be here.  All of us have chosen to make our lives here in Israel….and when 10 of us gather together for services at a baseball game, we drive that point home….we are here, and we are proud of the decision that we have made to make our lives here. 

And so, the 10 or more of us stand there before God, representing the many others who have done the same. With our love for the land we make up for the spies, and with the sacrifices we have made along the way, we make up for Joseph’s brothers.

A guy turned to me at the game and said, “You know, some people say that now that big league baseball has made it to Israel, American Jews will have one less excuse for not coming to live here!”

Maybe so.


4 Responses to “Nine to field a team, ten to make a minyan”

  1. Glenn Tuesday, July 17, 2007 at 9:45 pm #

    True, these games are a delight. It is a perfect experience. Minyan between innings at an IBL game. I am not even mentioning Burgers Bar which is also part of the evening.

  2. Janis Zaremba Tuesday, July 17, 2007 at 10:09 pm #


    I found this particularly entertaining and will be sharing it with my classes.

    Thanks for habitually brightening up our Tuesdays!


  3. naftali Schwartz Tuesday, July 17, 2007 at 11:37 pm #

    niice article daddy! Too bad i only got to one of those games . . . Do they do the minyan thing also at Baptist village?

  4. yoni schwartz Friday, July 20, 2007 at 1:02 am #

    love it!…well said, great write up abba!

    The idea of davening mincha at a professional baseball game in israel
    just gives me goosebumps thinking bout it…(in a good way)

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